Wednesday,September 23,2020 01:42 AM

New policy on projects in the offing

By Cecilia Okoth

Added 18th May 2017 01:40 PM

The policy, currently at consultation level, will be presented to cabinet before it is implemented.

New policy on projects in the offing

The policy, currently at consultation level, will be presented to cabinet before it is implemented.

The Ministry of Gender, Labour and Social Development (MGLSD) has embarked on a process on developing legislation that will put in place policies and laws that require projects to have a Social Impact Assessment (SIA) done before commencement.

Once passed, the law will ensure that before any contractor starts work in a given community, the locals have a stake in terms of the effects any project is likely to have on them.

The move by the Ministry, follows a number of negative social impacts that have halted infrastructural projects in the country.

Most recently, The World Bank, a pivotal partner in Uganda's development for over 50 years, cancelled funding for the Fort Portal-Kamwenge road amid sexual assault claims. It also suspended funding in the Albertine region sustainable development and the northern eastern road construction projects.

But according to Benard Mujuni, the Commissioner in charge of Equity and Rights at MGLSD, once implemented, the SIA will examine the nature of social risks associated with the proposed project.

The policy, currently at consultation level, will be presented to cabinet before it is implemented.

Mujuni said SIA is conceived as being the process of identifying and managing the social issues of project development and includes effective engagement of affected communities in a participatory process of identification, assessment and management of social impacts of projects.

"In other words it puts social infrastructure at the same level with physical infrastructure and makes sure that communities and individuals own and protect the physical infrastructure with pride," he said.

Mujuni was speaking at a consultative meeting with social impact key stakeholders in large infrastructure and development projects at Esella Hotel in Kira Municipality.

The policy comes at a time when Government is emphasizing investment on infrastructural development. Government's top key areas of investment include infrastructure, oil and gas, human resource development, agriculture among others.

There are a number of key infrastructure projects being undertaken in Uganda and these include construction of the 1,614 KM Standard Gauge Railway (SGR), upgrading of 2,205 Kilometres of roads from gravel to tarmac, construction of the 600 MW and 183 MW Karuma and Isimba Dams respectively as well as construction of the Oil Refinery and Pipeline among others.

SIA unlike the Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) done by the National Environmental Management Authority, looks at effects that any infrastructural project is likely to have on the society where it is being implemented and how those negative impacts can be mitigated.

EIA is a study done on a proposed project to establish its benefits and negative impacts on the environment and well as the alternative courses of action.

However, Arnold Kwesiga a programmes manager on business and human rights at the Initiative for Social and Economic Rights, an NGO, said The challenge with the EIA is that it tends to focus on environmental impact and not human rights and social assessment.

"From our experience with NEMA, a lot of focus is on the environment and how to make it more available for companies and investors to carryout projects rather than the livelihoods, health and safety of the people and how they can continue accessing basic amenities as they have been," Kwesiga said.

But according to Dr. Tom Okurut the NEMA executive director the element of monitoring and enforcement by law is paramount if social impact assessment is to be achieved.

He said that currently once an EIA certificate is given to a developer with a set of conditions, various sector ministries are supposed to ensure that those conditions are met, saying NEMA only comes in for general monitoring once a year.        

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